By Paula Walter
In September of this year, Pastor Dennis Peterson will have been pastor of Bakers Gap Baptist Church for 10 years. Every year, he challenges the children of the church to see how many people they can bring to Bible School. If they can rise to the occasion, Peterson promised he would preach from a tree. They beat the previous record by 2, bringing in 127 to this summer’s Bible School.
This isn’t the first time Peterson has challenged his congregation. He honored a promise to preach on a rooftop, held a watermelon and corn-eating contest, and wore a wig and a pair of 1960s glasses while preaching. He has also been known to spray half his face red and the other side blue, play basketball or join in a water balloon fight.
Peterson lives in Elizabethton and drives every evening to Vacation Bible School for a week without missing a day. This week, 21 kids accepted the Lord as their Savior.
The air was filled with excitement as the congregation began to gather next to a large tree in the cemetery this past Sunday. “Come on preacher,” the cute three-year old Josie said gleefully. “Let’s get the ladder.” Josie’s excitement was spread across the crowd as they watched their 63-year old pastor hoist himself, unassisted and with ease, as he settled himself onto the sturdy branches, appearing to be quite comfortable in his bibs and boots.
“Preacher in the tree, preacher in the tree,” Peterson started to sing. “What did everybody come to see? The preacher in the tree.” After opening in song and prayer, the preacher remained true to his word. “A bargain is a bargain,” he said. “We set 125 and we got 127. “
His Bible in one hand, Peterson settled in to preach on a timely topic- Zacchaeus, whom Jesus discovered in a sycamore tree as he entered Jericho on the way to Jerusalem.
Editor’s note: A portion of this article was inadvertently omitted in the print version of The Tomahawk. It will be reprinted in its entirety next week.